A Guide to Hop-On-Hop-Off in Boston

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

Just the ticket! Seeing Boston at your own pace

A Guide to Hop-On-Hop-Off in Boston

When your time in Boston is limited and you have a list of things you want to be sure to see, a hop-on-hop-off tour offers the perfect solution. Hop-on-hop-off tours let you visit as many or as few sites as you wish during your ticket time period, and you can stay as long as you wish at your favorite spots.

Hopping on and off around Boston

Four companies offer hop-on-hop-off tours of Boston, and each offers different destinations, specials and features to set them apart from the rest. Each of the four companies also paints its trolleys a distinct color, making them easily recognizable when it's time to reboard.

Beantown Trolley

  • Red trolleys
  • 10 stops
  • Two hours to complete the circuit
  • Three trolleys daily
  • Tickets include 45-minute harbor cruise
  • Offers hotel pickup

CityView Trolleys

  • Silver trolleys 
  • Nine stops
  • One hour to ride the circuit without getting off
  • Includes a free 45-minute Boston Harbor cruise
  • Two-day trolley ticket included with the Go Boston Card
  • Groupon discounts

Old Town Trolley

  • Orange and green trolleys
  • 19 stops
  • Complete circuit takes 1 hour and 50 minutes without getting off
  • One- and two-day tickets available
  • Offers discounts for residents through Boston Hometown Pass
  • Offers specialty tours like Ghosts and Gravestones Night Tours

Upper Deck Trolley

  • Yellow and green trolleys
  • 21 stops on three loops: Boston, Seaport and Harvard Square
  • Complete circuit runs 2.5 hours
  • One- and two-day tickets available
  • Offers specialty tours like Boston Night Tour
  • Elevated seating platforms let you see over traffic

How to get around

Make the most of your hop-on-hop-off ticket by being at the trolley stop at the earliest pickup time. Start times vary throughout the year by 30 minutes or more, so check with the trolley company you plan to use before heading to the nearest stop.

There are two different ways to approach a trolley tour. Some people ride the trolley's route all the way around the first time without getting off. Get an overview of the city and set priorities to divide the time available without missing anything. Alternatively, head to a particular attraction early before it gets crowded and complete the rest of the loop later.

Check the trolley's last pick-up time. This is the latest time you can get on a trolley and make it around the loop by closing. Once you hop off after this time, you likely won't be able to hop back on to get farther down the line.

Safety when hopping off

While on the trolley, the driver manages the safety of the passengers. However, once you hop off, be particularly vigilant for your own safety. Avoid getting into “Disneyland mode.” The city's historic sites are full of wonder and photo opportunities, but don't let that distract you from looking out for your own safety. Boston drivers ranked as the worst in the nation three years in a row, so remember to look for red light runners or erratic drivers before stepping off the curb.

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.